The book tells the story of Tokyo heroes like Osamu Watanabe of Japan, who won gold in freestyle wrestling without surrendering a point, and Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina, who won two golds, one silver and two bronze to bring her Olympic medal total to 18. Other highlights of 1964 recounted in the book include the dominant US men’s swim team, which won seven of a possible 10 medals in the pool, and Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia, who matched his performance from Rome four years earlier to become the first person to repeat as Olympic marathon champion.
Later in the book the focus turns to the Winter Olympics and the 1968 Games in Grenoble, France. Broadcast for the first time in colour, the 1968 Games saw East and West Germany compete as separate nations for the first time. The book profiles stars of Grenoble like gold-medal winning figure skater Peggy Fleming, who sparked a surge in interest in skating; the dashing Frenchman Jean-Claude Killy, who took three gold medals in skiing; and an elfin skier from Canada named Nancy Greene who won gold and silver and became an instant icon in her country.
Juan Antonio Samaranch, former President of the International Olympic Committee, called The Olympic Century, “The most comprehensive history of the Olympic games ever published”.